SECURITY COUNCIL DISCUSSES SECRETARY-GENERAL’S DECISION TO RECONFIGURE KOSOVO MISSION IN VIEW OF CHANGES FOLLOWING UNILATERAL DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE

25 July 2008
SC/9407

SECURITY COUNCIL DISCUSSES SECRETARY-GENERAL’S DECISION TO RECONFIGURE KOSOVO MISSION IN VIEW OF CHANGES FOLLOWING UNILATERAL DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE

25 July 2008
Security Council
SC/9407
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Security Council

5944th Meeting* (AM)

SECURITY COUNCIL DISCUSSES SECRETARY-GENERAL’S DECISION TO RECONFIGURE KOSOVO

MISSION IN VIEW OF CHANGES FOLLOWING UNILATERAL DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE

 

With the situation in Kosovo profoundly changed following its 17 February declaration of independence and adoption of a constitution in June, members of the Security Council weighed in this morning on the Secretary-General’s decision to reconfigure the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) in order to afford the European Union an enhanced role in the territory’s rule of law sector under a United Nations umbrella.

Briefing the Council at the outset of the meeting, Lamberto Zannier, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Kosovo and head of UNMIK, said the fundamental changes on the ground had contributed to “a profoundly new operating reality for the Mission”.  Under the plan to reconfigure UNMIK, its capacity would be reduced in areas where it could no longer function effectively and enhanced in others, with particular attention to minorities and ensuring the rights of all communities.

In principle, UNMIK continued to retain executive authority for police, judiciary and customs functions throughout Kosovo, he said.  As such, the Mission had held discussions with representatives of the European Union’s Rule of Law Mission (EULEX) on future cooperation, and the two sides were close to concluding an agreement.  EULEX was expected to deploy under United Nations authority and in accordance with resolution 1244 (1999).  The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) mission in Kosovo was also expected to continue as part of the reconfigured UNMIK, in the areas of promoting democratic values and protecting the interests of all communities.  As for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the level of cooperation on the ground between UNMIK and the Kosovo multinational security force (KFOR) was most encouraging.

The representative of the Russian Federation was the most vocal opponent of UNMIK’s reconfiguration, insisting that the Secretary-General had exceeded his authority and intruded on the Council’s prerogative in taking that decision.  There seemed to be an attempt to legalize a structure that would implement the Ahtisaari Plan, which had not been approved by Council.  Any attempt to settle the Kosovo question must be undertaken in strict compliance with resolution 1244 (1999) and the Mission’s mandate, as approved by the Council.

China’s representative said that, while significant changes had taken place in Kosovo, resolution 1244 (1999) remained the legal basis for resolving the Kosovo question.  Since UNMIK had been established following the adoption of 1244 (1999), its reconfiguration should not stray from the 1244 mandate.  Reconfiguration must not involve the question of status and it must remain technical in nature.  The European Union, which enjoyed significant influence in the Balkans, should continue to play a constructive role within the framework of resolution 1244 (1999).

Concerned that UNMIK’s ability to operate as before had been fundamentally challenged, Panama’s representative said the Secretary-General’s actions to go ahead with reconfiguration were prudent and reasonable, in light of the Council’s failure to elaborate a new mandate and the lack of an expiry date for UNMIK.   Although Serbian and Kosovo leaders had pledged not to resort to force, the disregard for human rights, nevertheless, loomed large.  The Council must ensure that the preservation of cultural identity was done in the service of peace, not war.

The representative of the United States welcomed the Secretary-General’s decision to reconfigure UNMIK, since the Council remained deadlocked and unable to provide guidance on the Mission’s future.  The decision was completely in line with existing authorities under resolution 1244 (1999).  As the United States had consistently held since a broad international coalition had moved to implement the Ahtisaaari Plan, UNMIK must adapt to the new reality of Kosovo’s independence and to the establishment of the International Civilian Office and EULEX.  All parties must recognize that the deployment of the European Union mission would help ensure stability for all ethnicities in Kosovo.

France’s representative said that a reconfigured international presence would help bring about a favourable climate, enabling it to carry out vital tasks to preserve all that had already been achieved.  Recognizing that UNMIK might rely on support from the European Union, France assured the Council, as President of the European Union, that EULEX would operate in the context of resolution 1244 (1999).

While maintaining that Serbia could not accept its own forcible partition, Vuk Jeremić, that country’s Foreign Minister, described the way in which the reconfiguration had started as “an inglorious episode”, but stressed that it was now critically important to proceed the right way, with the full engagement of Serbia.  Reconfiguration must be completed with Serbia’s acceptance and the Council’s explicit approval.  That was the only way to ensure legitimacy and sustainability.  The voice of Serbia –- on reconfiguration and much else -– could no longer be disregarded.

He said that, two days ago, Special Representative Zannier had travelled to Belgrade for talks on the issues of police, judiciary, customs, transportation and infrastructure, boundaries and patrimony.  As the Special Representative had remarked, “to solve problems together we must reach decisions together”.  It was in that constructive frame of mind that Serbia’s Minister for Kosovo and Metohija would meet with Mr. Zannier early next week for talks on the judiciary and police.  Serbia would spare no effort in engaging honestly with the United Nations to forge an acceptable, forward-looking reconfiguration arrangement that would uphold the overall authority of the United Nations, while opening up space for the institutional inclusion of regional organizations.

Mr. Hyseni of Kosovo said that Pristina would continue to seek dialogue with Belgrade on a wide number of issues of mutual interest and it wished to engage in those talks sooner rather than later.  The two sides should talk as independent and sovereign States, since it was in the interest of both to arrive at solutions, especially since both aspired to join the European Union.

Also taking the floor today were representatives of Belgium, Burkina Faso, Croatia, Italy, Indonesia, Costa Rica, United Kingdom, South Africa, Libya and Viet Nam.

The meeting began at 10:15 a.m. and ended at 12:20 p.m.

Background

Before the Security Council was the report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), which describes its experiences following the territory’s 17 February declaration of independence and June adoption of a constitution.  Those developments have “profoundly” changed the reality in Kosovo, prompting the Secretary-General to instruct his Special Representative to take steps to reconfigure the Mission in accordance with its founding resolution 1244 (1999), in order to afford the European Union an enhanced role in the rule of law sector under a United Nations umbrella.

The report (document S/2008/458) explains that Kosovo’s Constitution does not envisage a real role for UNMIK.  Laws have been passed enabling the authorities to assume control over areas previously reserved to the Special Representative.  The Kosovo Serbs, who reject the Constitution and related legislation, have reacted by expanding their boycott of the territory’s institutions and deepening their parallel structures in the north, with the help of Belgrade.  The Serbian Electoral Commission went as far as to organize elections in municipalities inhabited by Kosovo Serbs -– the results of which UNMIK declared invalid -- but the election winners were, nevertheless, filling posts based on those results.  Kosovo Serbs have on occasion resorted to violence to express their opposition to the authorities, but illicit arms, available in large quantities, have been found in the possession of Kosovo Albanians as well as Serbs.

In terms of its economy, Kosovo has become increasingly integrated into the regional market, according to the report.  The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has determined that gross domestic product (GDP) for 2007 stood at around €1,573 per capita, indicating an annual growth rate of about 5 per cent over the past five years.  But economic difficulties remain: for instance, Kosovo continues to lose revenue because the Government of Serbia refuses to implement a customs regime along the Administrative Boundary Line with Kosovo.  In addition, there are inefficiencies in the management of public money, and UNMIK’s “economic reconstruction pillar” has lost its funding from the European Commission.

The report states that, to begin UNMIK’s reconfiguration, the Special Representative will engage in dialogue with Belgrade on matters relating to police, courts, customs, transportation and infrastructure, boundaries and Serbian patrimony.  The dialogue would be brought forward in close consultation with the Kosovo authorities.

Regarding issues of governance, cultural and religious heritage, European integration, as well as human rights and humanitarian issues, the report touches briefly on the return of displaced persons, noting a downward trend in the number of Kosovo Serbs choosing to return.  In annex I is a technical assessment of progress in implementation of the standards for Kosovo in the areas of law enforcement and protection, freedom of movement, returns and rights of communities, property rights and cultural heritage.

Briefing

LAMBERTO ZANNIER, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Kosovo and Head of UNMIK, said the situation in the territory had changed fundamentally, contributing to a profoundly new operating reality for the Mission.  Since the Kosovo Assembly’s adoption on 9 April of the “Constitution for the Republic of Kosovo”, it had approved an allocation of funds for the establishment of a Ministry of Foreign Affairs.  The Minister was present in the Security Council Chamber, and the Prime Minister had announced his intention to establish embassies in a number of European States and in Washington, D.C.  The Assembly had continued to pass laws, promulgated by the President of Kosovo, without reference either to the Special Representative’s powers under resolution 1244 (1999) or the Constitutional Framework.

He said the Kosovo Serbs continued to oppose cooperation with the authorities in Pristina, stressing that they would cooperate only with UNMIK.  At the same time, the Serbian Government had consolidated its control of structures in Serb-majority areas, particularly northern Kosovo.  Local municipal elections had been held in May, and UNMIK had neither hindered nor supported them, though it had declared the results invalid.  As a result of those elections, new parallel municipal authorities were now operating in all Serb-majority municipalities.  The Serbian Minister for Kosovo had noted publicly his expectation that UNMIK would eventually recognize them, while the Serbian Government was sanctioning the formation of an “Assembly of the Union of Serbian Municipalities and Settlements in Kosovo and Metohija” on the basis of those elections.

The stark divergence of paths taken by Kosovo’s Serbian and Albanian communities had changed the space in which UNMIK could operate, he said, adding that, since the entry into force of the Kosovo Constitution, exercising the powers of the Special Representative under resolution 1244 (1999) had become increasingly difficult.  Attempts to impose legal authority were simply not heeded by the Kosovo Albanian majority, who saw the Constitution as the fundamental document from which legal authority derived.

He said he was in no position to promulgate laws that had an undisputed binding effect.  Regular working meetings to decide upon governance matters, a standing fixture since UNMIK’s inception, no longer took place, reflecting changes in the relationship between the Special Representative and the Prime Minister.  “While I am still formally vested of executive authority under resolution 1244, I have no tools to enforce it.  These powers can only be exercised if and when they are accepted by all parties, as is the case, for instance, in the rule of law area.”

With the Kosovo Serbs dealing only with UNMIK and the Kosovo Albanians either trying to deal with those issues themselves or by involving the European Union or other international representatives, he said, it was increasingly difficult for the Mission to broker solutions.  Some of the more complex disagreements included disputes over the site of a new mosque in Kamenica municipality and a water distribution dispute in a multi-ethnic neighbourhood.  There had also been a complaint by the Serbian Orthodox Church that the foundations of a destroyed church had been covered over to make way for a public park.  Furthermore, the European Union’s decision to end funding for the operations of UNMIK’s economic reconstruction pillar had left the Mission, from 30 June, without the technical capacity or budget to operate in most economic areas.

With respect to the rule of law, he expressed concern that key institutions were not functioning as they should.  A number of judicial institutions in northern Kosovo remained closed and large numbers of Kosovo Serb police officers refused to take instructions from the leadership of the Kosovo Police Service.  UNMIK customs had no presence at the two northern gates on the Administrative Boundary Line with Serbia, resulting in the loss of revenues and increased smuggling.

He said an initial plan to reconfigure UNMIK had been developed and forwarded to Headquarters.  It outlined a number of measures that would reduce the Mission’s capacity in areas where it could no longer function effectively -- in civil administration, for example -– and enhancing others, with particular attention to minorities and ensuring that the rights of all communities were protected.  UNMIK was also willing to continue helping with Kosovo’s participation in international forums, thus ensuring that its people could benefit fully from interaction with the international community and with regional cooperation processes.

In principle, UNMIK continued to retain executive authority for police, judiciary and customs functions throughout Kosovo, he said.  As such, it had held discussions with representatives of the European Union’s Rule of Law Mission (EULEX) on future cooperation, and the two sides were close to concluding an agreement.  The Rule of Law Mission was expected to be deployed under United Nations authority and in accordance with resolution 1244 (1999).  The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) mission in Kosovo was also expected to continue as part of the reconfigured UNMIK in the areas of promoting democratic values and protecting the interests of all communities.  As for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the level of cooperation on the ground between UNMIK and the Kosovo multinational security force (KFOR) was most encouraging.

A key role for UNMIK would be leading the dialogue with Belgrade and consulting with all affected parties in a number of practical areas, he said.  In the last two weeks, the Special Representative had met with political leaders in northern Kosovo, judicial officials in both Pristina and Mitrovice/Mitrovica, and leaders of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Decan/Decani.  Two days prior, a meeting had been held in Belgrade with the new Serbian Government on the six practical areas outlined in a 12 June letter from the Secretary-General to President Boris Tadić: customs, police, courts, transportation and infrastructure, boundaries and Serbian patrimony.  Those talks were expected to continue at a meeting in Pristina next week with Serbia’s Minister for Kosovo.

Statements

VUK JEREMIĆ, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Serbia, said that, since the Council’s last meeting on the southern province of Kosovo and Metohija, a new Government had been confirmed by the National Assembly in Belgrade.  It represented a more hopeful Serbia, confident in its engagement with the world, ready to accelerate progress towards full European Union membership, willing to contribute actively to building regional peace and firmly committed to safeguarding its sovereignty and territorial integrity.  “In short, we are a Serbia that is a proud, European democracy, whose well-known position on the unilateral declaration of independence of its southern province remains unchanged.”

He said the province’s attempt at secession contravened the United Nations Charter, the Helsinki Final Act and other cornerstone treaties of the contemporary international and European order.  The unilateral declaration of independence had also called the explicit meaning of resolution 1244 (1999) into serious question, for that text clearly placed a binding Chapter VII obligation on all Member States to respect Serbia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.  Undermining the principle of sovereignty anywhere in the world was a dangerous game, fraught with precedent and political consequence.  International law and the region’s strategic priorities were in danger of being sacrificed on the altar of political expediency.  Serbia could not accept, and would continue to oppose, its forcible partition, and no country represented in the Council Chamber would do otherwise.  Serbia believed in the peaceful and consensual resolution of disputes, including the one before the Council today.  Such an approach was the only one that stood a chance of achieving a sustainable solution to the Kosovo question that would be acceptable to all stakeholders.

The overall tone of the Secretary-General’s report showed improvement over previous ones, and criticism of the Kosovo Serbs and Belgrade had largely disappeared, he said.  Yet, it was regrettable that the report tended to downplay the fundamental distinction between positions aiming to uphold the primacy of international law and those intended to side-step its basic tenets and obligations.  Serbia also regretted that the United Nations had still not released Francis Ssekandi’s findings regarding allegations that senior UNMIK officials had ordered the excessive use of force on 17 March against Kosovo Serb demonstrators in Kosovska Mitrovica, as was plain from paragraph 7 of the report.

Nowhere did the report explicitly condemn illegitimate adoption of a “constitution” that attempted to eliminate any role or function for the United Nations in Serbia’s southern province, he continued.  The so-called constitution made reference to implementing the Ahtisaari proposal, a document that had no legal standing with the Security Council, much less Serbia.  All that constituted a grave violation of resolution 1244 (1999).  Instead, the report merely asserted the existence of a “profoundly new reality in which UNMIK can no longer perform […] its tasks as an interim administration”.

He noted that the Secretary-General -- proceeding without the Security Council’s consent and in direct opposition to the will of Serbia, the host country of the Mission in Kosovo -- had instructed his Special Representative to reconfigure UNMIK.  “Imagine, if you will, what could happen when some place other than Kosovo is at issue in this Chamber -– one in which a different constellation of forces and interests is in play.  Would it again be appropriate to move ahead absent a consensus?”  The way in which the reconfiguration had started was an inglorious episode indeed.  But it was now critically important that it proceed in the right way, with the full acceptance and engagement of Serbia, and be completed with the Council’s explicit approval.  That was the only way to deliver legitimacy and ensure sustainability.  Serbia’s voice on reconfiguration and much else could no longer be disregarded.

Two days ago, he recalled, the Special Representative had travelled to Belgrade for talks on the six topics of “practical mutual concern”, in the language of the report: police, judiciary, customs, transportation and infrastructure, boundaries and patrimony.  That meeting was an important first step towards protecting the well-being of Serbs and other non-Albanians in Kosovo.  As the Special Representative had remarked, “to solve problems together, we must reach decisions together”.  It was in that constructive frame of mind that the Minister for Kosovo and Metohija would meet with the Special Representative early next week for talks on the judiciary and police.  Serbia would spare no effort to engage honestly with the United Nations in forging an acceptable, forward-looking reconfiguration arrangement that would uphold the overall authority of the United Nations, while opening up space for the institutional inclusion of regional organizations.  Reconfiguration must not go beyond the red lines marked out by resolution 1244 (1999).  It must not in any way infringe upon the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic of Serbia.

He went on to say that, once explicitly confirmed by the Security Council, such a construction could go far in the direction of addressing the very concrete, numerous challenges that Serb communities in Kosovo faced.  Today, the situation on the ground was far from normal.  As a result of the unilateral declaration of independence, ever fewer internally displaced persons had returned to Kosovo -– a total of only 49 Kosovo Serbs from March to the end of June.  That clearly demonstrated the undercurrent of exclusion and intolerance extending throughout the province.

Cultural cleansing had also returned, he said, citing “an abominable act of paving over the ruins of the recently destroyed Serbian church in the centre of Djakovica”.  Municipal authorities in Decane had been defiantly against restoring the cadastral record of land belonging to the monastery of Viskoi Decani, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, notwithstanding two executive decisions by the Special Representative ordering them to do so.  Also a result of the unilateral declaration of independence, the return of illegally seized private property had come to a standstill, with more than 30,000 cases outstanding.  In short, life for the most endangered community in Europe had become almost unbearable.

Underscoring his country’s seriousness about rapidly securing its membership in the European Union, he said Serbia had unmistakably demonstrated its fundamental commitment by decisive steps to reaffirm its full cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.  It also believed strongly in the power of the twenty-first century values of Europe and their ability to reconcile former adversaries.  It was time to turn the page on the divisions of the recent past.  By pursuing a policy of peace through compromise, the Western Balkans could truly be transformed into a region that submitted to the rule of law, while embracing the promise of Europe and the principles that stood at its foundation.  Such was the vision of the new Government of Serbia and the new reality it aimed to achieve, together with its partners and friends.  That was the strategic framework informing its approach to resolving the problem of Kosovo.

SKENDER HYSENI of Kosovo said 43 States around the world, including most neighbouring countries in Europe, had recognized his country’s independence, and many others were expected to join them.  However, independence had not solved the many problems still facing Kosovo.  For instance, its economy was in disrepair after decades of mismanagement and systematic destruction by the Milosevic regime.  Fortunately, a recent donor conference had resulted in pledges amounting to €1.2 billion in support of economic recovery and development.  Kosovo was firmly committed to full transparency and accountability in working with donor partners.

He said the new Constitution, which had entered into force on 15 June, had been prepared with help from international experts.  It incorporated the minority-rights protections contained in the Ahtisaari Plan and 40 pieces of legislation also suggested in that Plan relating to decentralization and the protection of cultural and religious heritage.  Both the new Constitution and the entry into force of those laws created the basic prerequisites for implementation of the Ahtisaari Plan in its entirety.

Beyond adopting legislation, he said, Kosovo had already begun implementing the Ahtisaari Plan in many respects.  For example, it had started implementing plans to establish protective zones around the Serbian Orthodox sites.  In terms of decentralization, it had begun establishing new Serb-majority municipalities.  As for reconciliation among communities, the President was in the process of establishing a community consultative council, while the Prime Minister had set up a special Cabinet office for outreach to minority ethnic communities.  There were two ministers from the Serb community and one from the Turkish community, as well as a number of deputy ministers from other minorities.

Recalling that the European Union and NATO had been invited to perform their functions in Kosovo, he said the establishment of the International Civilian Office to supervise implementation of the Ahtisaari Plan, and the deployment of EULEX to assist the police and justice sectors, had been widely appreciated.  Kosovo would continue to work closely with the Secretary-General and his Special Representative as reconfiguration moved ahead.  It was understood that the United Nations would continue to perform, for a limited time, rule of law functions until the European Union became fully operational throughout Kosovo.

He pledged continuing efforts to seek normalization of relations with the “neighbour in the north”, based on shared values and common interests.  Both Kosovo and Serbia shared the desire for a brighter future in the Euro-Atlantic community of democracies.  Also, Pristina stood ready to engage in discussions with Belgrade as two independent and sovereign States, and looked forward to working with all Council members to promote the shared goals of international peace and security.

JAN GRAULS (Belgium), noting that the situation on the ground had changed considerably, cited the entry into force of the Constitution, legislative work in several areas and the creation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.  The Secretary-General had decided to reconfigure UNMIK to align it with the reality on the ground, and that technical reconfiguration should be done without delay so that EULEX could make a contribution.  However, significant challenges remained, including that of maintaining stability and security, which remained an important priority.  A safe environment was also a precondition for the establishment of rule of law and democratic institutions in which all of Kosovo’s people, including minorities, could participate.  The rule of law was also a major factor in achieving another priority goal -- economic growth.

Welcoming the outcome of the Brussels Donors’ Conference on 11 July, he said Kosovo now had the tools to achieve the main objectives of stability and development.  Much remained to be done, however, and Belgrade also had a role to play.  Concerned about the creation of parallel institutions in Serb-dominated areas, particularly the intention to create a Serb parliament, Belgium called upon Serbia to be a good neighbour to Kosovo.  It was time to turn the page on the painful history of the Balkans and to start writing a new, future-oriented chapter.  Belgium warmly congratulated the Serbian authorities for arresting Radovan Karadžić and encouraged it to arrest the remaining fugitives.

MICHEL KAFANDO (Burkina Faso), noting that the situation on the ground remained worrisome and both political and security issues continued to be a source of major concern, said the Kosovo Serb boycott of the new State’s institutions, their establishment of parallel structures, the organization on 11 May of parliamentary and municipal elections by the northern Kosovo Serbs -- the results of which UNMIK had invalidated -- all exacerbated tensions.  There was also reason for concern about the trafficking in and illicit holding of a large amount of illegal weapons.  The Council should remain vigilant and pay attention to those potential harbingers of conflict.

He said the proposals of the Secretary-General that sought, in the context of resolution 1244 (1999), to amend the structure and profile of UNMIK and the international presence in Kosovo, were bold and realistic.  Nonetheless, there were certain ambiguities, including the absence of any reference to the United Nations in the new Kosovo Constitution.  That notwithstanding, the Secretary-General’s proposals might be fair and just alternatives insofar as they preserved the many achievements of UNMIK.  Burkina Faso hailed Kosovo’s efforts to promote good governance and consolidate the rule of law.

There had also been progress in the implementation of the standards for Kosovo, he said, urging the international community and the European Union to support the development of Kosovo, particularly a new action plan on European partnership.  Continuing tensions notwithstanding, there was no doubt of the common European destiny of Serbia and Kosovo.  It was important to continue to support Kosovo, where many challenges remained.  Burkina Faso appealed to all parties and the entire international community to cooperate with the Secretary-General in the context of his new approach to Kosovo.

JEAN-PIERRE LACROIX ( France), recalling the Secretary-General’s announcement on reconfiguring the international presence in Kosovo in accordance with resolution 1244 (1999), said it was a decision taken in anticipation of cooperative efforts by all parties, working together in an impartial atmosphere.  One month later, the environment was calm, and steps towards reconfiguration seemed to be taking place in a democratic manner.  A reconfigured international presence would help bring about a favourable climate and enable it to carry out the vital tasks set by Secretary-General to preserve all that had already been achieved.  Recognizing that UNMIK might rely on support from the European Union, France assured Council members, as President of the European Union, that EULEX would operate in the context of resolution 1244 (1999).

Urging all parties to work in the spirit of cooperation and with a full sense of responsibility to find solutions, he noted that, for Kosovo to be fully accepted into the international community, it must uphold a commitment to the rule of law, respect minority rights and establish friendly relations with its neighbours.  The Kosovo authorities must also cooperate fully with the international presence.  The new Government in Serbia had made rapprochement with Europe one of its priorities, which the European Union welcomed, while also appreciating its cooperation with regard to the arrest of Radovan Karadžić.  Normalizing diplomatic relations with several European Union countries was another step in the right direction.

RANKO VILOVIĆ ( Croatia) congratulated the people of Kosovo for ensuring a peaceful transition from an UNMIK-led governance structure to that of a newly established republic.  That positive development proved the democratic maturity of the territory’s people, indicating their readiness to join the international family of nations.  To ensure that the positive trend continued, the international community must guarantee support for EULEX, UNMIK, OSCE, NATO and others working to help Kosovo uphold its Constitution and laws.  No doubt Kosovo would be a valuable and dependable partner in the region and beyond.

Commending the Secretary-General for his clear guidance in seeking to preserve stability in the region, he offered his country’s support for the reconfiguration of UNMIK, which would allow an increased role for the European Union in the area of rule of law under a United Nations umbrella.  Croatia encouraged Belgrade and Pristina to continue seeking support for their efforts, which would only be long-lasting if given genuine support from all sides.  Croatia commended the Serbian Government for helping with the arrest of Radovan Karadžić and looked forward to his speedy transfer to The Hague.  It also urged all concerned to redouble their efforts to intensify cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, so as to bring other fugitives to justice.

LI KEXIN ( China) said his country respected the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries and had called for a settlement of the Kosovo issue on the basis of relevant Council resolutions.  A lasting solution could only be found through negotiations between Serbia and Kosovo.  While the security situation remained generally calm, much uncertainty remained in Kosovo.  China appreciated the restraint by the authorities on both sides and encouraged them to work together to maintain regional peace and security.  Remaining challenges included reconciliation, return of internally displaced persons and protection of the legal rights of all ethnic groups.

While significant changes had taken place in Kosovo, resolution 1244 (1999) remained valid and continued to be the legal basis for resolving the Kosovo question, he continued.  UNMIK’s reconfiguration should not go astray from the 1244 (1999) mandate.  The reconfiguration must not involve the question of status and it must remain technical in nature.  China hoped the Secretary-General would carefully study the remaining issues and evaluate various proposals in an objective manner.  He should remain in contact with the parties to address remaining concerns.  The European Union enjoyed significant influence in the Balkans and should continue to work for a resolution of the Kosovo issue.

ALDO MANTOVANI ( Italy) said UNMIK’s ability to operate as before had been challenged by the actions of both Pristina and the Kosovo Serbs.  The international civilian presence must, therefore, be adjusted to the new circumstances.  EULEX must perform as expected throughout Kosovo, mainly with regard to the rule of law.  The dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina on the areas of mutual concern must continue.

He said Kosovo was basically a European issue requiring European solutions, adding that EULEX was the cornerstone of the European strategy.  While the general security situation remained calm, the reactions of the Kosovo Serbs and Belgrade to the declaration of independence had raised tensions.  Under the present circumstances, it was important promptly to enable the European Union, within the framework of resolution 1244 (1999), to play an enhanced role through EULEX.  UNMIK would continue to carry out the remainder of its functions, including the consolidation of democracy and institutions, and the advancement of economic growth.  OSCE also had a crucial role to play.

ZALMAY KHALIZAD ( United States), describing the present time as one of promise for all the people of Kosovo, said the 11 July Donors’ Conference in Brussels had exceeded expectations, with pledges totalling $1.9 billion.  The Conference had underscored the commitment of key members of the international community to help foster economic growth, support regional stability and encourage prosperity for all the people of Kosovo.  Since Kosovo’s declaration of independence, a constitution and 41 laws had been passed with strong commitments to protect minority community rights and religious and cultural heritage, in line with the Ahtisaari recommendations.  Among other recent developments were the presence of three minority representatives, including two ethnic Serb ministers; the active participation of ethnic Serbs in several institutions; and recognition of Kosovo’s independence by 43 countries.  Kosovo and the vast majority of its citizens from all ethnic groups had shown goodwill and restraint, despite continuing provocations by hard-line opponents of independence.

While progress and stability in Kosovo should be commended by all members of the Council, he said that, despite that progress, he shared the Secretary-General’s concern regarding the continuing lack of control on the Serbia-Kosovo border.  Smuggling was rampant and the threat of violence by hardliners remained worrisome.  The United States called on Serbia to end its manipulation of ethnic-Serb police in Kosovo and to support the authorities in their efforts to restore legitimate customs and other border functions.

He said there had been several examples of violence, including the killing of a United Nations policeman when UNMIK and KFOR had responded to violence by Serb assailants and Serbian Ministry of Interior personnel on 17 March.  Hardliners had tried to use financial levers and physical intimidation to coerce ethnic Kosovo Serbs not to participate in Kosovo’s institutions.  The United States called on the new Government in Belgrade to halt the destabilizing policies of the past and support legitimate efforts to build reconciliation and stability.  The United States also shared the Secretary-General’s concern about the property dispute at the Decani monastery and called upon municipal authorities to respect UNMIK’s executive directives.  Looking ahead, the International Civilian Representative would exercise oversight to ensure that obligations to protect the rights of minority communities and their cultural and religious heritage were met.

Noting that the Council remained deadlocked and unable to provide guidance to the Secretary-General regarding UNMIK’s future, he welcomed the Secretary-General’s decision to reconfigure the Mission in light of new realities, particularly as Kosovo’s new Constitution had entered into force.  The United States looked forward to quick progress on the reconfiguration and the implementation of residual functions as previously outlined by the Secretary-General.  UNMIK must adapt to the new reality of Kosovo’s independence and to the establishment of the International Civilian Office and EULEX.  Specifically, the United States supported the authorized transfer of rule of law responsibilities from UNMIK to EULEX, and looked forward to the latter’s early deployment throughout the territory.  All parties must recognize that the deployment would help ensure stability for all ethnicities.

VITALY CHURKIN ( Russian Federation) said that, while he agreed on the importance of settling the issue of Kosovo, he did not agree with the statements made by Mr. Hyseni.  The mandate of the international presence ought to be determined by the provisions of resolution 1244 (1999), which was unchanging, and not by the wishes of individuals on the Council.  While taking note of the Secretary-General’s report, the Russian Federation objected to a number of its conclusions.  Furthermore, Kosovo’s recent declaration of independence and its recognition by a number of States was contrary to international law as outlined in the United Nations Charter and Security Council decisions.  Any attempt to settle the Kosovo issue must be undertaken in strict compliance with resolution 1244 (1999), which remained in force, as the Secretary-General had himself confirmed, as well in line with the mandate of UNMIK, as approved by the Council.  The Russian Federation expected the Secretary-General to continue informing the Council about obstacles presented by the Kosovo Albanians to the proper conduct of the Mission’s work.

He said the Secretary-General had exceeded his authority in deciding to reconfigure UNMIK in the way he had chosen.  He had intruded on the Council’s prerogative and there seemed to be an attempt to legalize a structure that would implement the Ahtisaari Plan, which had not been approved by Council.  The “unlawfully proclaimed construct” put forward by the Kosovo authorities had the effect of curtailing the rights of people in Serb-dominated areas and others.  It threatened to complicate the implementation of international democratic standards relating to the rights of minorities, including the right of return of displaced persons and refugees, of whom so few had returned between January and May.  There was also a question of land seizures, such as those involving the duchy and municipality surrounding the Visoki Dečani monastery.

Plans to isolate ethnic Serbs in a quasi-independent State, such as at Mitrovica, would exacerbate tension, he said.  The report referred to an independent investigation of violence in such areas and insisted that the Council be apprised of its findings as soon as possible.  The Russian Federation understood the need for a more robust role for UNMIK, but such a role must be decided on the basis of resolution 1244 (1999), rather than unilaterally.  There must be further consultations between the Secretary-General and concerned parties, as well as interested members of the international community.  Full use should be made of Serbia’s readiness to engage in dialogue with the United Nations, so as to determine a mutually acceptable formula for UMMIK’s reconfiguration, as approved by Belgrade and the Security Council.  A long-term solution could only be found with the consent of the parties concerned and when the Council’s prerogatives were respected.

MARTY NATALEGAWA ( Indonesia) urged all parties to cooperate with UNMIK, stressing that resolution 1244 (1999) continued to provide the political and legal framework by which its mandate could be discharged.  The Mission’s operational reconfiguration must be “status neutral”.  It was important to heed the Secretary-General’s instruction that UNMIK cooperate with EULEX under the overall authority of the United Nations, consistent with resolution 1244 (1999).  That was because Kosovo matters were still governed by resolution 1244 (1999) and, as such, any entity working in the region would fall automatically under its framework.  Regular briefings must continue so the Council could remain abreast of new developments.

He said dialogue with Belgrade on issues of mutual concern was crucial, but it was equally crucial that it encompass status questions, without which it was would be difficult to foresee a normalization of the situation on the ground.  Dialogue remained essential to resolving final status issues, and Indonesia welcomed Serbia’s determination to solve any problems through political and legal means.  Indonesia called on Kosovo to embrace that position, and on the Secretary-General to engage all parties to find a mutually acceptable solution in line with resolution 1244 (1999).

SAUL WEISLEDER ( Costa Rica) said Kosovo’s declaration of independence had altered the situation on the ground and the circumstances in which UNMIK operated.  While the complex situation in the Balkans could not be resolved during the short period of the Mission’s operation, it had played an important role.  Costa Rica supported the Secretary-General’s decision to reconfigure UNMIK, which was the best way to enable the Mission to continue to contribute.  The European Union and other regional institutions could also contribute to a long-term solution in Kosovo.  Today’s briefing had presented a clear picture of UNMIK’s work, as well as its limitations owing to the new situation that had arisen.  In light of that, the Security Council could not long continue to refuse to revise the Mission’s operations and mandate.

Given its importance from the standpoint of justice, he also highlighted the contribution of the Serbian Government’s capture of Radovan Karadžić, saying it reflected the principles guiding the new Government’s actions and its commitment to full integration into Europe.  At the same time, it was a matter of concern that there was a large volume of illegal weapons in Kosovo, a problem to which an early solution must be found.  Costa Rica called upon the parties to look to the future rather than the past and pursue reconciliation and dialogue.

JOHN SAWERS (United Kingdom), welcoming the Serbian Foreign Minister’s statement, said that, while some differences on Kosovo remained, there was now a basis upon which to move towards a new future for both Kosovo and Serbia.  The United Kingdom particularly congratulated the Serbian Government for the arrest of Radovan Karadžić this week and hoped the Council would welcome that action, which was a significant advance on Serbia’s road towards Europe.

Regarding the Secretary-General’s decision to reconfigure UNMIK, he said that, whether one recognized Kosovo’s independence or not, it was clear that the Mission could not perform its tasks as an interim administration.  The reconfigured Mission would work primarily with the Kosovo authorities and it was to be hoped that EULEX would soon deploy and play its role as envisaged.  Regarding the Special Representative’s dialogue with Belgrade on the six priority issues, it was not the beginning of a new negotiation process.  Many countries had recognized Kosovo as an independent State and that would not change.  The United Kingdom welcomed the adoption of important legislation in Kosovo and the entry into force of the new constitution.  It also urged the authorities to continue addressing the needs of minorities.  From today’s statements, it was clear that both Mr. Jeremić and Mr. Hyseni were looking forward, which was what the Council should do.

DUMISANI KUMALO ( South Africa) stressed that the current reconfiguration of UNMIK must take place in a status-neutral manner, in line with resolution 1244 (1999), which remained in effect.  South Africa was encouraged by the Secretary-General’s commitment to execute the reconfiguration in line with that resolution, and noted the pledge by UNMIK and the European Union to cooperate under the Special Representative’s authority.  The function foreseen for the Special Representative in the reconfigured Mission -- facilitating dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina –- was welcome.  The two parties were encouraged to resume dialogue in the spirit of reconciliation and with the intent to arrive at an amicable, long-term solution.

ALFREDO SUESCUM ( Panama) said he was concerned about the fundamental challenge to UNMIK’s ability to operate as before owing to actions taken by the authorities in Pristina and by the Kosovo Serbs.  Though somewhat reassured to learn that the Special Representative was proceeding with UNMIK’s reconfiguration, it was troubling to know that the Security Council had not been able to provide guidance on that issue.  For the Council to stand on the sidelines would only detract from its credibility.  It might itself become a destabilizing factor, as institutions were allowed to erode on its watch.  The Secretary-General’s decision to go ahead with the reconfiguration was prudent and reasonable in light of the failure to sign up to a new mandate and the lack of an expiry date for UNMIK.  Although Serbian and Kosovo leaders had pledged not to resort to force, disregard for human rights, nevertheless, loomed large.  “Silence must not disguise the fact that many innocents have drowned in blood and fire.”  The Council must also ensure that the preservation of cultural identity was done in the service of peace, not war.

ATTIA OMAR MUBARAK ( Libya) said resolution 1244 (1999) remained the legal context for UNMIK’s presence in Kosovo, and the Council was still the body to authorize any changes.  Regional groupings had a role in maintaining peace and security in Europe and the European Union deserved to be commended for the support it provided to the United Nations operation in Kosovo.  However, continued cooperation between UNMIK and the European Union should not exceed the legal parameters defined in resolution 1244 (1999).

Expressing concern about the tensions that had characterized the situation in Kosovo over the past three months, particularly in the north, he appealed to all parties to work constructively with UNMIK, overcome the painful past and look to the future in the spirit of harmony and tolerance.  Kosovo was not the only case in the Balkans where minorities coexisted.

He called on UNMIK to deploy more efforts to guarantee the return of internally displaced persons and to protect religious and cultural sites.  Libya condemned all actions against humanitarian workers and urged the Secretary-General to continue negotiations with the parties in both Pristina and Belgrade in order to overcome the challenges facing UNMIK.

Council President BUI THE GIANG (Viet Nam), speaking in his national capacity, agreed with the Secretary-General’s view that recent events in Kosovo had created a profoundly new reality, but voiced concern about the Pristina authorities’ institution of measures seeking to assume UNMIK’s power.  It was also worrisome that their Constitution made no mention of a role for the United Nations or resolution 1244 (1999), which was the legal framework for the international civil presence in Kosovo.

He called on all parties to refrain from statements or actions that would endanger peace and provoke violence, especially with tensions escalating between the Kosovo Albanians and Kosovo Serbs.  Both sides should resume dialogue and negotiations for a comprehensive and lasting solution to Kosovo question.  Viet Nam had taken note of the Secretary-General’s package of proposals and shared his view that UNMIK needed to be adjusted in order effectively to perform its tasks as an interim administration throughout Kosovo.  But any change or reconfiguration of the international civil presence would require a new decision by the Security Council, as well as the consent of the parties concerned.

Mr. HYSENI said that Kosovo would continue to seek dialogue with Belgrade on a number of issues of mutual interest and wished to engage sooner rather than later.  The two sides should talk as independent and sovereign States.  Kosovo welcomed the Secretary-General’s initiatives to identify issues for discussion and welcomed the Special Representative’s offer to facilitate.  It was in the interest of both parties to arrive at solutions, especially since both aspired to join the European Union.  Meanwhile, there was no need to wait until all disputes were resolved to discuss practical issues such as energy, roads and highways, and transmission lines, among other things.

He said Kosovo also stood ready to discuss issues relating to the concerns and grievances of the Kosovo Serb community.  There should be no doubt that its institutions would deliver on commitments to protect minority rights, above all those of the Serb community.  However, elections for a number of Serb-dominated municipalities “conducted by Belgrade” were illegal.  Kosovo intended to implement decentralization plans and had a blueprint for the creation of Serb-majority municipalities that would enable Kosovo Serbs duly to participate in the conduct of public affairs and decide on their own affairs.  In addition to the usual competencies of municipalities, the Serb-majority ones would have additional competencies in the area of primary, secondary and tertiary health care and education up to the university level.

All members of Government would continue to reach out to Kosovo Serb communities, he said, inviting Belgrade to cease its support for illegal parallel structures in the north and encourage the Serb community to work with the Kosovo authorities.  Belgrade should be receptive to calls for the normalization of relations and dialogue on issues of common interest.  Kosovo would do everything necessary to protect, restore and honour the Serb cultural and religious heritage, and had already allocated resources for that purpose.  It had an “excellent” blueprint for doing just that, as contained in the Ahtisaari annexes, using protective zones around the monasteries.

Special Representative ZANNIER, referring to the alleged use of excessive force against Kosovo Serb demonstrators in Mitrovica, told the Council that the Department of Peacekeeping Operations would organize a briefing for concerned Member States next week.

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*     The 5943rd Meeting was closed.

For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.